Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Father Guido Gockel and I recently accompanied a group of CNEWA’s benefactors on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and I blogged about it on ONE-TO-ONE. If you’ve never seen the Holy Land, take a look:

CNEWA Staff and Benefactors in Jericho

As if modern Magi, we are looking for the birthplace of Jesus, but unlike them we are not following complicated astronomical trajectories. Our comet and guiding star is a Palestinian named Tony and instead of slow camels we are using a much faster and reliable Hyundai minivan. Read more.

Bedouins in Jericho

The Magi Move On

When the Magi reached the grotto of the Nativity, I’m sure they left their camels just outside it. When our group arrived at Bethlehem’s Nativity Square, a Palestinian policeman asked us to move our car quickly. Our guiding star, Tony, could not hover above the grotto or even nearby. Read more.

Experiencing the Real Holy Land

One has to go through the same checkpoints Palestinians have to cross in order to understand why they feel imprisoned in their own land. And when you look in the eyes of Israeli soldiers, you find out that many of them are young men and women perhaps scared of the huge responsibilities given to them. They wear it like a suit many sizes too large, and it shows clearly.Read more.

Hope and Comfort in a Divided City

Early in the morning, after crossing the New Gate and entering the Christian Quarter, after only a few steps on the uneven cobble stones, we saw the emerald-green iron gates of CNEWA’s office in Jerusalem (known locally as the Pontifical Mission). Read more.

A Trip Cut Short

We waited for Father Guido at the Altar of the Crucifixion and at 7 a.m. sharp he arrived, escorted by a Franciscan priest. This altar is cared for by the Franciscans. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and other Eastern churches care for other sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Read more.


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Traveling in the Middle East is difficult even in the best of times. The roads are ancient, the weather hot and dusty, and with the political situation in constant flux, it can be hard to know where one stands.

But when I was trying to fly home from my trip to the Middle East, I was confronted with a geological phenomenon too! It took a few days longer than planned, but I finally made it home from Jordan. Can I tell you, I sure am happy to be with my wife and son again!

As I mentioned at the start of my trip, I’ve been without a good internet connection. So I was antsy to get back to a one so that I could start sharing my stories with you. Imagine my dismay as a cloud of volcanic ash spread across Europe—shutting down airspace and blocking my route home!

Luckily, with a bit of maneuvering, I was able to find a direct flight back home—from Tel Aviv, Israel. I was in Amman, Jordan, so with the help of my friends and CNEWA colleagues, I was able to drive to the open airport in Tel Aviv and get on a flight to the U.S.

I won’t go into too much detail about what happened at the Israeli border, but with customs stamps on my passport from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, there were some suspicious officers with questions before I was allowed on the plane.

Thank goodness, I did make the flight, and more than 10 hours later, touched down at JFK airport. Even though I’ve been to the Middle East before, this trip was special. It brought me new insights and inspiration, and I can’t wait to share them with you, so stay tuned!

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